Are people finding more activities to keep them outside during the most brutal months of the year?
Following one of the harshest winters in recent memories, makers of outdoor performance footwear say they see untapped potential in the winter months, particularly if they can add a degree of youth appeal and fashion flair to traditionally pragmatic designs.
Many vendors who haven’t developed a product for winter months are now entering with new concepts, and those who have been players are looking for new ways to expand.
A.D. One, San Mateo, Calif., which has until now concentrated on summer and fall casual and performance footwear, is introducing a boot that looks as if it were designed for dog sledding or snowshoeing. The aim, said president Rick Gzano, is to target the skateboarding crowd with a winter alternative.
“We wanted to come up with casual footwear that portrays an image,” said Gzano. With that in mind, the company is introducing a boot called Outer Limits Extreme.
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Functional & Waterproof
“It has a lot of the spirit of the old explorers. I think it’s something that the footwear community is ready to accept. It’s functional, waterproof and makes a statement,” said Gzano.
Lake of the Woods noted for its hunting boots, has developed a pac boot, called Cyber-Pac, at $169 suggested retail. The boot features waterproof leather with a Sympatex waterproof lining and a Vibram sole.
“Its design preserves and improves on the weather-resistant qualities necessary in a pac boot, but also creates a shoe-like, walker-friendly stability that is not available in conventional pacs.
Suddenly, the outdoor market has found that new design concepts have a place in winter boots as well as summer footwear.
Target the Winter Months
“People are looking for warmth and protection – that’s a given,” said Mike Coogan, VP, marketing, Genfoot, Montreal. “But we really hadn’t improved the visual aspects. We hadn’t really given people a reason to buy other than we can protect your foot at 20 below.”
Coogan said until now, companies like Genfoot spent a lot of time and money researching how to make the warmest possible waterproof boot.
“Then when it came to the uppers, we said, ‘Okay, why don’t we try a different color upper,'” Coogan noted. Now, however, they are keeping in mind the 17-to 25-year-old consumer getting into new activities such as snowboarding and snowshoeing when they design a new product.
Not all vendors, however, see the benefit of targeting the winter months, given the fickleness of nature and the relatively short season.
“It’s so risky,” said Tony Post, senior vice president and general manager, marketing performance at The Rockport Co., Marlboro, Mass. He said the winter season makes the sports sandal season seem long by comparison.
“It’s such a short season for us. I felt it was important to build a base of less seasonal products,” said Post. However, he also conceded that after a winter like the one New England just suffered, adding winter sports boots to the line is a tempting notion.